By Paul Surtees
Visiting a hospital is often an uncomfortable, even stressful
activity – both for the patients, nervously awaiting treatment, as well
as for the patient’s companions anxiously awaiting the patient’s
hoped-for improvement to health and eventual discharge from hospital.
It has fallen to me to spend time in many hospitals around the World, in
both categories, in many other lands. But two unexpected sights that I
recently observed here in Chiang Mai caught my attention as showing how
things should be done, and yet I have never before seen anything like
it, anywhere else. I write of the application of ‘’music therapy’’ in
the entrance halls of the Chiang Mai University hospitals on Suthep
First, at one of the main entrances, a lovely Buddhist shrine and prayer
room has been set up, beautifully-decorated in traditional local style.
Here, many a patient and anxious relative can give prayers, or thanks,
for the better health of those undergoing treatment within that huge
But that is not all. Nearby, a large Thai traditional musical ensemble
is situated, there to perform melodious and decorous religious music by
the hour, to accompany the prayers of the faithful. These slow and
tranquil traditional melodies themselves must do much to help to reduce
the stress levels of the many people nervously awaiting medical
In another large hospital entrance hall, again with large numbers of
anxious people awaiting their medical fate, another type of soothing
live music may be heard. Kindly (and musically-talented) off-duty CMU
doctors, nurses and medical students sing beautiful Thai songs,
accompanied on the violin and piano. Again, these lovely melodies must
do much to relieve the tensions of those many people waiting in that
Entering a hospital for treatment would be a time of high anxiety for
most of us. These exposures to soothing melodies are therefore
well-conceived to lessen the stresses, at a moment when such welcome
relief is very much-needed.
The CMU hospital authorities, who make these lovely moments possible,
are to be warmly thanked for their inspiration and support to these
imaginative and melodic endeavours. The volunteer musical performers are
also giving a lot, and their contributions are to be greatly applauded.
In both situations, devout religious sentiments prompted the provision
of something beautiful, to calm the troubled souls, for the sake of the
I was truly touched to see it. Other hospitals around the world could
learn much from this daily application of the magic of music, right here
in Chiang Mai.